Loading…
Saturday, November 3 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
6.F. Spiritual Disciplines, Sacred & Profane

Log in to save this to your schedule and see who's attending!

PANEL. Spiritual Disciplines, Sacred & Profane

"Mexican Carnival: Profanations in Luis Buñuel’s Nazarín and Simón del desierto"
Lars Nowak
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg 

In view of current reinvigorations of religious fanaticism, surrealism retains its importance not least because of its critical (however ambiguous) attitude toward religion – an attitude that was also shared by its most famous film director, Luis Buñuel. My paper will focus on two of his lesser known works, Nazarín (1959) and Simón del desierto (1965), whose title characters, a Catholic priest and a Christian stylite respectively, choose an ascetic lifestyle in order to be closer to God, but alienate themselves from their own physical existence as well as their fellow human beings. However, Simón’s mental weaknesses and Nazarín’s social failures finally reduce the characters to their ordinary human measure. While this reduction can be described as profanation in the spirit of earlier attempts to apply Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of carnivalism to Buñuel’s oeuvre, I will go even further by paying particular attention to the Mexican context of both films. Mexico was one of the most important countries for surrealism’s propagation outside of France, thanks in part to the many inspirations its culture could lend to this artistic movement. Among these was the amalgamation of Spanish Catholicism and occult indigenous religions, which manifested itself in the carnival celebration that was brought to Mexico by the Spanish colonizers and readily accepted by the original residents, not only as a temporary relief from colonial hardships, but also due to its affinities to their own traditional festivities. One of the many surrealist immigrants in Mexico was Buñuel, who produced no less than twenty films there, including Nazarín and Simón del desierto, whose storylines were influenced by this geographical background. While the latter film eventually moves from ancient Syria to modern North America, the entire story of the former takes place in Mexico, circumstances that relate to the motif of profanation. This is particularly evident in the case of Nazarín, who is ironically profaned by being perceived as a miracle healer due to the appropriation of his Catholicism by the deep-seated pagan belief of the locals. The paper will highlight these and other similarities between both films, but also account for their differences. For instance, while Nazarín’s horizontal migration parodies pilgrimage, Simón’s degradation finds direct expression in his vertical downward move from his column.

"'A Beautiful Princess without Bones': The Destabilizing Surrealism(s) of Takahashi Shinkichi and Takiguchi Shūzō"
George Kalamaras
Purdue University

Japan in the 1920s and 1930s was a hotbed for Dadaist and Surrealist activities. Two poets stand out: Takahashi Shinkichi, who in 1923 published Dadaisuto Shinkichi no shi (Poems of Dadaist Shinkichi), and Takiguchi Shūzō, who was imprisoned because, as Hiroaki Sato notes, “he advocated Surrealism,” and who, along with Nishiwaki Junzaburo, is often considered one of the two founders of the movement in Japan. While embracing Dada and Surrealism as sites of rebellion, Takahashi and Takiguchi approach the avant-garde in radically different ways, Takahashi evolving from Dada to Surrealism and ultimately to Zen poetics, and Takiguchi arguing for a homegrown Surrealism, endemic to Japan, which cannot be a far-eastern rendering of its French counterpart: “Surrealism,” he says, “that is the movement of ‘surrealism’ which has spread from France, cannot, in its original form, completely match the situation in our country. . .” Takahashi’s later embrace of Zen can be seen not as a departure from but as a development of his Surrealism, both grounded in visionary poetics. Takiguchi’s practice of a seemingly “purer” Surrealism (he writes, “The air is a beautiful princess without bones”) is largely based on psychic automatism specific to his cultural identity. My paper explores these two streams, arguing that both were necessary to simultaneously situate and destabilize Surrealism in Japan, the destabilization being a development of the movement. Both the grounding and the “unhinging” of Surrealism were ultimately necessary to forge a new Surrealism specific to Japan.

“Spiritual Surrealists: Joseph Cornell, Mina Loy, and Religious Currents in Interwar American Surrealism”
Erika Doss
University of Notre Dame

In 1932, Joseph Cornell began showing his collages at Julien Levy’s New York gallery; in 1936, he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking exhibition Fantastic Art: Dada and Surrealism. This paper contextualizes Cornell within New York’s interwar Surrealist orbit, especially under the guiding influence of Marcel Duchamp, and considers how his art subjects and styles were further shaped by his faith in Christian Science, a religion he joined in 1926. Cornell was indubitably influenced by Max Ernst’s Surrealist collages, which he first saw at Levy’s gallery in late 1931. Yet his goal, he told Levy and reiterated in his diaries, was to make a modern art of “white magic.” As he explained to MoMA curator Alfred Barr in 1936: “I believe that surrealism has healthier possibilities than have been developed.” Cornell’s use of the word “healthier” was intentionally self-revealing: he was pointedly alerting Barr that his version of Surrealism was based on the restorative directives of Christian Science, which asserts that reality is constituted by “divine Mind” and centers on divine healing. Cornell’s interest in a “healthier” kind of Surrealism was shared by his friend Mina Loy, an avant-garde poet and artist who was also Christian Science (and Levy’s mother-in-law). Exploring how their art similarly embodied their mutual faith in the alternate reality of spirit and the ephemerality of matter, key tenets in Christian Science, “Spiritual Surrealists” considers why certain interwar American moderns turned to Surrealism to visualize their religious beliefs.

Speakers
avatar for Erika Doss

Erika Doss

University of Notre Dame
GK

George Kalamaras

Purdue University
LN

Lars Nowak

Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Chairs
PT

Pierre Taminiaux

Georgetown University


Saturday November 3, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm
Room F. Hildreth-Mirza Hall: Large Seminar Room (first floor)